Ilkley’s first Fine Food Market ready for business

Paula Connor, (Producer and Director of Ilkley Real Food), Jeremy Benn, from Wharfedale Cheeses (Team Member of Ilkley Real Food), and Trisha Powell, from Gulten Freekz, (Local Producer).
Paula Connor, (Producer and Director of Ilkley Real Food), Jeremy Benn, from Wharfedale Cheeses (Team Member of Ilkley Real Food), and Trisha Powell, from Gulten Freekz, (Local Producer).
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It may have taken more than a year in the planning but Ilkley fine food market is opening. Catherine Scott reports.

“I’ve always been interested in food,and especially organic produce,” she explains.

Paula Connor

Paula Connor

“I’d done a few markets in other towns and got to know a few people and we got talking.

“We started thinking how can we make something that would be great for the community, which would bring everybody together and provide a platform for community groups to raise awareness.

“We started to think that what Ilkley really needed was a fine food and lovel produce market, somewhere not only where people could sell their produce, but somewhere the community could come together and learn more about the food they eat and how it is produced.”

Paula started The Greenhut Co in 2014, after a long illness and using growing and cooking as her ‘route to recovery’. She developed a small range of preserves using fruit and vegetables grown in accordance with ‘Organic Standards’ in her sunny garden in Ben Rhydding, supplemented from a ‘Certified’ Organic farm in Boston Spa which she sold at local food fares and markets.

But she was passionate about getting the community more involved with food production.

Together with a number of like-minded producers and aparish councillor they created Real Food Ilkley, a ‘Community Interest Company’which is registered with Companies House. Paula is a director and so is Bernie Baldwin.

“We are a not for profit organisation. To date, the directors and team members have worked to set up this venture on a voluntary basis,” explains Paula. They have spent the last 18 months researching, questioning, planning and getting permission for their first Real Food Ilkley fine food market.

“I have to admit that I didn’t think it would take so long or take so much work,” says Paula who is nothing if not thorough. “It has pretty much taken over my life over the last 18 months.

“We really wanted everybody’s support and so we made sure that we consulted thoroughly,” says Paula, whose background is in medical science. “We wanted to know whether the people of Ilkley wanted a market and to find out what the retailers thought.

“There has been overwhelming support for a local produce market.”
Most of 2015 was dedicated to this process and many wanted assurances about the type of produce sold and its location. We spent a lot of time with the Ilkley Business Forum and talking to retailers.”

But the hard work of Real Food Ilkley means that Paula’s dream is about the become reality.

Real Food Ilkley will hold its market on Mothering Sunday, March 6 from 10.30 am to 3pm behind the Black Hat Pub on South Hawksworth Street in the town centre. It will then take place on the first Sunday of every month from March to December during 2016.

As well as showcasing fine food and local produce in an ‘open air market’, here will be live entertainment from local performers and foodie demos atm each monthly event.

In line with Real Food Ilkleys’ commitment to focus on the community, the group has reserved two of the stalls at every market to be used exclusively by local community groups and health improvement organisations.

The selection process for stall holders has been vigorous.

“We have to make sure that the balance is right,” says Paula. “The producers and vendors have been selected to demonstrate the wealth of local talent and their commitment in using and promoting ‘traditional’ methods of producing food. More than half of the businesses are from within the Ilkley district, and this demonstrates the demand for a ‘back to basics’ approach in food consumption.

There will be 16 commercial stalls at each event, 13 are already confirmed, and include handmade Yorkshire artisan cheeses, chutneys from Ilkley and fruit liquors from Addingham, to authentic Indian sauces from Leeds, and award-winning gluten-free cakes from Burley-in-Wharfedale with more local producers and businesses signing up to offer charcuterie, sweet treats and bread.

Jeremy Benn of Wharfedale Cheeses and Real Food Ilkley CIC member says: “The idea is not to take business away from local shops but to enhance what we have in Ilkley. We hope it will encourage even more people to visit the town which will be of benefit to everyone. We reallu hope the people of Ilkley will love and support it.”

Fiona Mann of Addingham Fruit Liqueurs has also been involved in the project.

“It won’t just be good for producers we think it will be good for the community as a whole. It will also be good for start up businesses who will are also going to help by offering one stall a month to a new business.”

As for Paula she is now getting excited with just over a week to go although she says she is looking forward to a breather and getting back to her own business of making jams and chutneys.

However she already has one eye on the future.

“We will see how things go but we really hope that this will just be the beginning,” says Paula. “We want it to become an occasion, something people will put in the diaries.”